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Business will use Abbott’s Productivity Commission inquiry to reduce workers’ rights

10 May 2013 By ACTU

The ACTU has warned that Tony Abbott's proposed Productivity Commission inquiry into Industrial Relations will be used by business to try and impose extreme laws that limit workers' rights.

ACTU Secretary, Dave Oliver said remarks today by business leaders and former IR Minister Peter Reith showed business groups wanted Mr Abbott to shift even further towards individual contracts and Workchoices-style policies.

"The policy Mr Abbott released yesterday should be a major concern for workers due to its push towards individual contracts, but the reaction from business leaders today shows they want him to go even further."

"Business leaders have been queuing up to call for changes to Mr Abbott's policy. National Australia Bank chairman Michael Chaney has said he is disappointed the Coalition won't remove penalty rates. Australian Industry Group head Innes Willox has said the policy is 'timid'".

"It is clear that Mr Abbott's proposed Productivity Commission inquiry will be used by business to try and strip back rights and conditions for workers.

"The current IR laws have struck a balance which allows workers the right to bargain collectively, and to take disputes to the Fair Work Commission.

"They also allow workers to appeal if they are unfairly dismissed, and to speak to union representatives in lunchrooms about safety or other issues.

"The Government also plans to enshrine penalty rates in law.

"These remarks by business leaders have shown Tony Abbott will be under huge pressure from his friends in the corporate world to get rid of these basic rights and pursue an even more extreme IR policy and increase the use of individual agreements."

"Workers should be disturbed by the lack of detail around Mr Abbott's plans for Individual Flexibility Agreements, which will make it easier for employers to put workers on to individual agreements and erode their bargaining power."

"Mr Willox also said he wants the Productivity Commission inquiry to look at unfair dismissal and penalty rates, this means that business will continue its agenda of trying to scrap penalty rates and unfair dismissal laws."

"The Productivity Commission has shown its pro-business colours in the past. They have recommended an end to penalty rates, cuts to minimum wages, and changes to make it easier to put workers on individual contracts.

"Any inquiry that it undertakes into industrial relations will be dominated by the views of business, who have already made their agenda clear.

"Why does Mr Abbott want a Productivity Commission inquiry unless there are specific changes he is considering? Why won't Mr Abbott give workers some idea of what is and isn't on the table?"

Media contact: Ben Ruse, 0409 510 879

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Name: David Smith, ASU National Secretary
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